LILY LIU is a former editor at the Institute of Foreign Literature in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. She has continued her writing, editing, and translation work ever since she immigrated to Canada in 1977. She has translated two screenplays from English to Chinese. Her literary works include Memoir of Hu Die (1985), Dream Chaser (2008), and The Forgotten Corner (2010). She has edited and co-edited over ten literary anthologies in the past ten years. She was elected as the Chair of Chinese Canadian Writers’ Association in 2005 and the Secretary-General of Overseas Chinese Women Writers’ Association in 2012. She is now a board member of The Society for Chinese Canadian Literature Studies in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. "The Stranger" was first published by the St. Petersburg Review in 2012.
ZHU HONG is a prolific translator and a visiting professor who teaches courses on post-Mao writing in the Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literature at Boston University. She is the editor and co-translator of The Stubborn Porridge (Braziller,1994), Festival of Flowers—Essays by Contemporary Chinese Women Writers (Yilin Press, 1995), A Frolic in the Snow (Liaoning Educational Press,2002), China 1927: Memoir of a Debacle (MerwinAsia, 2013), Will the Boat Sink the Water?: The Life of China's Peasants (Public Affairs, 2005), The Serenity of Whiteness: Stories by and about Women in Contemporary China (Ballantine Books, 1992), The Chinese Western: An Anthology of Short Fiction from Today's China (Ballantine Books, 1991), and A Higher Kind of Loyalty (Pantheon, 1990). Her translations of short stories from Chinese have appeared in The Antioch Review, The Chicago Review, The Paris Review, and The Iowa Review.
Written by Lily Liu
Translated by Zhu Hong
We often ran into each other on the bank of the Fraser River, sharing a bench as we watched the setting sun, to be followed by dusk. I was drawn to her face as it reflected the fading light, her face with its fleeting shades of melancholy, one-moment breathing resentment, then softened by an understanding, it seemed, of the vagaries of life itself.
So far we had never spoken to each other, a smile had been our only form of greeting. “Interested in a sip of Dragon Well tea?” She placed an exquisite tea set on the stone table near the bench. It seemed that our long-standing wordless communication had reached an end, and this was the start of a new friendship. She carefully extracted a thermos flask from her bag. “I filled it as I was leaving; now the water is just the right temperature to soak the tea.”
“You live nearby, I suppose . . .” Having settled in the West, I have come to respect other people’s privacy. I was not probing, just making small talk.
She smiled without replying.
Meticulously she poured out the tea, and immediately the elusive fragrance of Dragon Well tea was wafted in the light evening breeze. I savored the tea, as I studied the woman by my side. Could I say that “her best days are over” and that she was “clinging to the remnants of her beauty?” No, she did not fit that stereotype. True, she was no longer young, the crow’s feet on either side of her temples gave away her age. Moreover, the quiet resignation lingering in her gaze revealed her to be a woman with a past, but her movements as she poured out the tea were graceful. No, she was not a frivolous woman. Of medium height, she carried herself with dignity; her clothes were of elegant cut, the colors were muted and well-matched, revealing an artistic temperament. She had a smile on her face, a friendly smile, not overdone, just enough to show that she was an easygoing person.
“I suppose we can say that we have known each other for a while, though we have never spoken,” she murmured as she sipped her tea. At least three times a week, I would sit here to watch the setting sun. In the distance, the mountains seemed to close down on the river, which flowed quietly, rarely disturbed by the stormy weather. As I watched the sun’s orb fade away beneath the last gleam of the sunset, I would be gripped by a turmoil of feelings. Right in front of me, on this side of the river, however, people were frolicking on the bank, putting behind them the fatigue of the day.
Check out The Strangers for the whole story.